Report on May 15th ERT Hearing on Health Appeal
The Environmental Review Tribunal heard the testimony of Lisa Michaud, whose family resides near the Kent-Breeze wind project, the subject of the 2011 Chatham-Kent ERT appeal.
Examination of Lisa Michaud
The Michaud family’s self-built home is known as receptor 210 of the Kent-Breeze project, which was constructed and began operation while an ERT appeal was taking place.
The Michauds had little prior knowledge of the project. They first learned of it in a notice addressed to “Occupant” just before the developer’s final public meeting in September or October 2009. They attended the meeting and asked questions, but left with mixed feelings and no information on harmful effects. They did not know of the ERT appeal until the decision was released in July 2011.
Ms. Michaud has a number of pre-existing medical conditions: fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and back pain. Her husband has also suffered from high blood pressure and back pain, and her son has seasonal allergies.
Since wind turbines started operating in May 2011 she has experienced severe vertigo, sleep disturbance and breathing problems due to sound and vibrations, popping and buzzing in her ears, and distress due the effects on her family and home life. Both her husband and son have also been ill with vertigo, including vomiting. All these symptoms either are reduced or disappear when the family is away from home.
Family members have received medical attention for specific symptoms like vertigo. However, treatment has been complicated by their family doctor’s loss of license, substitute use of hospital emergency services, and finally, a new family doctor’s refusal to discuss wind-turbine effects or to provide related treatment after the family had launched a lawsuit.
Initially, Ms. Michaud contacted wind developer Suncor and the Ministry of Environment (MOE). Complaints to the MOE resulted in only one field officer’s visit, without any testing for compliance. Later, the Michauds were informed that the personal information they had provided had been stolen from an MOE vehicle. The Michauds eventually approached every level of government, including the Ontario ombudsman. Ms. Michaud also used social media like FaceBook to present her concerns. When no one gave any real assistance, the Michaud family filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against Suncor.
Cross-Examination of Ms. Michaud
MOE lawyer Sylva Davis reviewed Ms. Michaud’s medical history, focusing on her pre-existing conditions and treatments. She asked whether Ms. Michaud was aware that some medications could have the side effects of headache, dizziness, nausea, and muscle and bone pain. She also asked whether Ms. Michaud had sought therapy, such as that received for PTSD. Ms. Michaud replied that she has lived with stress all her life and has not sought therapy for it. The PTSD -related therapy was specific to a single problem. She added that the symptoms she has experienced since the turbines began operation are different from the symptoms associated with her pre-existing conditions.
Ms. Davis explored Ms. Michaud’s feelings about wind development and was told that the Michaud family feels “abandoned by government” because they were not consulted at the outset, or even contacted personally by the developer, and had no say in the approval process, yet they are exposed to the risks. Ms. Michaud used to regard home as an “oasis from the stress of the world”; now it is “not a safe place.” Although only one wind turbine is visible from her house when leaves are off the intervening trees, she feels “nauseated and annoyed” when seeing wind projects in the area.
Gilead Power lawyer Bryn Gray confirmed that the Michauds live 1,110 m from the nearest turbine and that audible noise is worst when the house is downwind. He asked why medical records are incomplete and was told that either the records are not readily available or the family cannot afford to obtain them.
Re-examination of Ms. Michaud
APPEC lawyer Eric Gillespie asked Ms. Michaud about the train traffic on a rail line 200 m from her house. She said the number of trains has not changed since the family moved to the property in 2005, and train noise does not disturb them. When asked to compare her new symptoms with those from pre-existing conditions, she said the new symptoms are experienced only in the house or elsewhere around wind turbines, and they started with turbine operation and have never left.